Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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This week’s parasha contains a story about a king, a prophet, and a talking donkey.  The King of Moab, Balak, implores a renowned foreign prophet, Bil’am, to go and curse the Israelite people, offering a handsome reward.   Echoes of Egypt’s Pharaoh abound, in Balak’s paranoid view of the Israelites:  “…they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can defeat them and drive them out of the land.” (Num. 22:6) Bila’am sets out to do the king’s bidding, but fails repeatedly as God intervenes, even speaking through the prophet’s donkey.   One commentator asks why Balak did not ask the prophet to bless his own people, instead of cursing another.  Beit Ramah concludes:  “He was so consumed by hatred that he forgot about his people’s needs and could think only about hurting his enemy. “  (Etz Hayim commentary, p. 895.)  We will take up this story at our Parashat Hashvuah (Weekly Torah Portion)study this Shabbat on Saturday at 9:30am. (Under the umbrellas in the BHT backyard.  Inside, if rainy or too hot.)  Join us!

This week’s decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to renege on his commitment to create an egalitarian worship space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem should trouble every Jew who cares about pluralism, democracy and the future of the Jewish State. (For more information, click on the links below in this edition of the BHT ENews.)  That this decision was made during the week of parshat Chukat, when we read about the ritual of the red heifer (Num. 19), seems fitting.  This obscure law about the use of the ashes of a cow for purification purposes has not been followed since shortly after the Temple was destroyed.  But, because of this statement in the Talmud:  “According to R. Meir in all of Jewish history only seven heifers were burned, but according to the rabbis there were nine (Par. 3:5), and the tenth and last will be prepared by the Messiah (Yad, Parah Adummah 3:4),” one very small sub-sect within the Orthodox Jewish world is preparing to reinstitute the red heifer law in the Messianic Age.  It is also a small sub-sect of the Jewish world that PM Netanyahu is trying to appease in reversing course on The Kotel.   His decision is as out of step with modernity as was the red heifer law in the 1st Century CE.

This week’s parasha (Torah portion) contains the story of Korach and his supporters who mount a near “coup” against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Those who participated are killed in a dramatic event.  Nonetheless, God commands that the firepans, the very tools of their revolt, be used to make an altar covering for the Mishkan.  The Torah says that the fire pans “have become holy because they were offered before Adonai.” (Num. 17:3).  Commentators have puzzled over the meaning of this passage. How could symbols of sin and disrespect for leaders become holy?  One interpretation is that they are “mementos of the victory of truth over falsehood.” (Arama, p. 866 in Etz Hayim Torah Commentary.)  Much of the news cycle in America these days is focused around the difficult task of ferreting out truth over falsehood, especially in reporting on the FBI’s Russia probe.  When all is said and done and the truth is revealed, will we find a way, as a nation, to bring a sense of reverence back to our treasured institutions of Democracy? What “firepans” will we sanctify as a way of moving forward together?

November FOOD OF THE MONTH: Canned Tomatoes 

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URJ Weekly Torah Commentary

Saturday, November 25, 2017
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This Week at BHT

23 Nov 2017
12:00AM
Thanksgiving Office Closed
24 Nov 2017
05:45PM -
Shabbat
27 Nov 2017
07:00PM -
Canceled-Book Club
28 Nov 2017
04:00PM -
Shalom Center Soup Kitchen
29 Nov 2017
05:30PM -
Adult Hebrew Beginner Class
29 Nov 2017
06:30PM -
Adult Hebrew Continuing Class
01 Dec 2017
12:00AM
Nosh On!
01 Dec 2017
05:45PM -
Family Kabbalat Shabbat | BD Blessing | Home | Gershtenson
02 Dec 2017
09:15AM - 10:15AM
Torah Study
02 Dec 2017
10:30AM -
Learner's Minyan | Kitah Hey on the Bima
03 Dec 2017
09:30AM - 10:45AM
Introduction to Judaism
03 Dec 2017
09:30AM - 11:30AM
Great Decisions
03 Dec 2017
10:30AM - 12:00AM
Construction Has Begun | Let's Celebrate | Lox and Bagels Brunch